Fewer than 5pc of breast cancer patients seen in two weeks

Chloe Smith and Alison Thomas has responded to the June figures for breast cancer referrals which were below 5pc at the NNUH.

Chloe Smith and Alison Thomas have responded to the June figures for breast cancer referrals which were below 5pc at the NNUH. - Credit: Archant

Fewer than 5pc of patients given a breast cancer referral at Norfolk's largest hospital were seen within the two-week target, the second lowest figure in the country.

During June, only 3.1pc of patients with suspected breast cancer were seen within two weeks at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH) - nine patients out of 295. The national target is 93pc.

Health bosses from the trust have spoken about the pressures to tackle cancer referrals, adding hundreds of additional clinics on evenings and weekends. 

It comes after the death of Girls Aloud star Sarah Harding, who died of breast cancer aged 39 and who previously said she felt she had let the pandemic deter her from seeing her doctor.

A spokesperson for the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital said: “Our cancer teams received record numbers of two-week wait referrals following the end of lockdown and higher than expected numbers of breast cancer referrals.

"Our teams are working hard to see patients as quickly as possible."

Further pressure was seen with delivering test results at the NNUH, with 40 out of 291 patients, or 14pc, receiving results within the 28-day target.

The James Paget University Hospital, in Gorleston, and Queen Elizabeth Hospital, in King's Lynn, performed better than the national average across all three categories, with July's figures due to be published on Thursday. 

The NNUH spokesman added the clinics have reduced those waiting for their first appointment from 660 in June to 250.

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On Thursday, the trust updated the current wait for breast cancer referrals at NNUH is between 15 to 17 days and the wait is coming down with the extra clinics in place.

Alison Thomas, councillor for Long Stratton

Alison Thomas, councillor for Long Stratton - Credit: Archant

Alison Thomas, chair of Norfolk County Council's health and overview scrutiny committee, said the committee has asked for information on how long after the two-week target patients were being seen. 

She said: "We will continue to keep a weathered eye on this. We want to work positively with the NHS, we want the best outcome for patients across Norfolk. 

"They [the hospitals] want to see people as quickly as possible and get the diagnosis as quickly as possible."

She urged people not to be put off by waits and seek treatment.

"Let the experts make the decision if you are a priority, they have to prioritise the most urgent cases."

Chloe Smith, Conservative MP for Norwich North. Picture: Neil Didsbury

Chloe Smith, Conservative MP for Norwich North. - Credit: Neil Didsbury

'The NHS is there for you'

In June, Norwich North MP Chloe Smith confirmed her treatment for breast cancer had been successful and joined health officials in urging people to seek medical treatment. 

The MP said: “The figures are worrying and I know they could be a source of anxiety for people.  

“I would really urge that you don’t hesitate in calling your doctor if you find something unusual. The NHS is there for you. It will care for you. 

“The NHS does need to be able to care for us whether it is Covid or cancer. 

"In addition to that the announcement of yesterday is that the government is putting in enormous resources into beating the backlog.

“I would really emphasise this. Please contact your GP and if you think you have a symptom of cancer or something very serious you must insist on being seen. GPs are using a mixed model, as they have been asked, and can see people face-to-face.”